A resto-mod is a vintage car or truck that looks on the outside as if it just left the factory, but whose stock body hides myriad mechanical upgrades. It is not uncommon for shops to build complete modern chassis from scratch – in much the same manner one would go about creating a NASCAR race car – then place the vintage body shell on top of it.
Resto-mod owners have many reasons to explain why they would spend so much money modifying a car without actually changing its appearance. Most say they have fond memories about a car they saw as a child or during their high school years; perhaps it was a model their parents owned. Several decades later, they would give in to feelings of nostalgia and buy a similar vehicle but find that the ride and performance were not quite what they had imagined.
Their desire to make that beautifully styled old body go, stop, ride, and corner like new gave birth to a category that remains the fastest-growing trend in the collector car world.
Perry Burchfield’s story is typical of this phenomenon. Six years ago, this machinist from the Great Smoky Mountains foothills community of Walland, Tennessee, purchased a 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner – a convertible that came off the assembly line the same year Burchfield was born.
Ford produced 44,614 Sunliners in ’61, but it is difficult to find a good example for sale today. The car Burchfield purchased was not exactly a prize-winner, so he bought a second one in slightly better condition. Between the two, he had enough solid parts to build his dream ride.
A local shop, Monday Race Cars, gave the Sunliner the full resto-mod treatment by fabricating a new frame, to which the crew attached a four-link suspension in the back and a Fatman Fabrications clip in front with power rack-and-pinion steering. Grooved and ventilated disc brake rotors went on the four corners, supplemented by a power master cylinder. American Racing rims, measuring 20 inches in diameter in the rear and 18 inches in the front, were fitted with modern high-performance radials.
To power his ’61, Burchfield pulled a 429ci V-8 from a Thunderbird and added a four-barrel Holley carburetor, free-flowing air intake, and other hot rod parts before applying chrome to all of the engine’s exterior surfaces. He hired a shop to custom bend the car’s dual-exhaust system.
The interior was given an updated treatment, with a tilt-steering column and a full complement of easy-to-read, black-on-white gauges, although, with 400-plus horsepower on tap, the 120-MPH speedometer seems inadequate. In 1961, AM radios were still extra-cost equipment, but Burchfield’s ride has a Pioneer AM/FM deck with CD player. The owner added power windows and an aftermarket air-conditioning system, both of which he enjoys from the comfort of Sand leather upholstery and matching carpet. A local artisan installed the interior-matching canvas top, and the trunk was upholstered in the same colors.
Hot Tamale red paint now covers every inch of the Ford’s body, and all hardware, such as door handles and accent strips, were either rechromed or replaced with new reproductions. The project took 15 months, and Burchfield will not comment on just how much money went into making it happen. Judging from the results, buying a new top-of-the-line Lincoln would seem cheap by comparison.
Burchfield’s Sunliner will be displayed with several other resto-mods during the Sept. 10-13 Food Lion AutoFair. Other attractions include an autograph session with Saleen Mustang creator Steve Saleen; a display of old and new Ford Mustangs, Dodge Challengers, and Chevrolet Camaros; a group of customized tailfin cars; and personal rides from NASCAR drivers. The Food Lion AutoFair annually attracts more than 120,000 visitors. It features more than 50 car club displays and more than 7,000 vendor spaces offering a huge array of automotive parts and memorabilia. More than 2,000 collectible vehicles of all makes and models will be available for sale in the car corral that rings the 1.5-mile superspeedway.
Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults. Tickets are $10 for adults while children 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.
Parking for the event is $5.
For more information, contact the Lowe’s Motor Speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit www.lowesmotorspeedway.com.